5/01/2013 11:06:00 AM

Where to Taste Tequilas and Mezcal Around DC

Fuego's Tacquileria: photo by Scott Suchman
During this week’s salute to south-of-the-border food and drink, let's raise a glass to tequila and mezcal, the alcoholic beverages distilled from the agave plants grow throughout Mexico. They’re most familiar as the potent base for margaritas. Yet purists prefer to savor a straight shot in order to taste and smell the terroir. How does that wine term translate into booze? Well, for example, blue agaves grown in highlands are said to be sweeter than the more herbaceous plants found in lower regions. Aging as well as the well-guarded techniques of the distillers, create different profiles. Several restaurants offer tastings that showcase the range and depth of their extensive collections. Here are some places where you can give it a try.

El Centro: With over 240 different tequilas and mezcals in its underground Tequileria bar-lounge, this 14 Street NW cantina’s collection will challenge the most avid fan. It offers vertical (compare aging techniques), horizontal (different producers), limited production, premium and mezcal tastings, or you can assemble your own from its extensive list.

Casa Oaxaca: Hailing from Oaxaca, a region known for its mezcal, this Adams Morgan regional offers an array of mezcals, as well as aged (taste ripe fruit, wood and spices), extra aged (wood barrels for over a year) and silver tequilas (herbal, citric, fresh fruit, floral) tequilas.

El Cucho: Sure, it has margs on draft, but this Columbia Heights party spot also takes tequila seriously, with dozens of different ones to try.

Fuego Cocina y Tequileria: This Clarendon Mexican’s handsomely rustic bar has some 100 tequilas on its shelves. Check out its list and choose a tasting of three for $13.

Masa 14:  On 14 Street NW, this Latin/Asian hot spot’s lounge stocks some 110 different tequilas. Assemble horizontal, vertical, premium or Don Julio flights from its list.

Oyamel: Jose Andres’ Penn Quarter Mexican’s intriguing and informative tequila menu, describes tastings that offer insight into the different flavors, aromas and classes of hand-crafted tequilas and mezcals, along with anecdotes about its history and lore.

Rosa Mexicano: These colorful cantinas offer tastings from a list of specialty tequilas and stock mezcals.

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